As if the title "Toddlers & Tiaras" alone wasn’t enough to spark interest, the actual content of the TLC show was enough to make anyone’s jaw drop. There were even quite a few "Toddlers & Tiaras" moments that went too far. And obviously, that was kind of the point. After all, TLC is known for shows that push the boundaries and showcase the abnormal. Shows like "19 Kids & Counting," "Sister Wives," and "90 Day Fiancé" do just that, but when it came to "Toddlers & Tiaras," things went a little too far. After all, children wearing skimpy outfits and fake teeth on stage is pretty provocative.
Still, the series ran for quite a while, though not without it’s controversial moments. "Toddlers & Tiaras" premiered in 2009, and it was initially canceled in 2013 before being revived in 2016, only to be canceled yet again. So, what caused the cancelation? Well, there were likely a lot of reasons, as it turns out. To say that "Toddlers & Tiaras" was steeped in controversy would be an understatement, but what caused the cancelation? Wouldn’t controversy mean more viewers and therefore more money for TLC? Again, it’s complicated, but it’s probably a good thing the reality series is no longer on the air.
There were a lot of issues with how the toddlers dressed
When you think about a show that focuses on children’s beauty pageants, you might expect it to be pretty innocent. But "Toddlers & Tiaras" actually faced a lot of controversy for the way the toddlers in the show were dressed. Specifically, one mom faced a lot of backlash for dressing her daughter up as Julia Roberts’ character from "Pretty Woman." Yes, the toddler was dressed as a movie sex worker, and understandably people were mad. What’s more, the mother in question didn’t see the issue, telling People that the costume was "tasteful and funny."
Yes, the way the toddlers were dressed was a real issue for a lot of people. One CNN article even accused the parents and show in general of over-sexualizing young girls. Licensed clinical social worker Mark Sichel told People that the children’s outfits were a serious issue. "Little girls are supposed to play with dolls, not be dolls," Sichel said. He also added that all the makeup and fake teeth — known as flippers — hurt the toddlers, too, as it "causes the children tremendous confusion, wondering why they are not okay without those things."
People were concerned for the mental health of the children
As much as "Toddlers & Tiaras" tried to focus on the glitz, glamour, and fun of the child beauty pageant circuit, it’s impossible to ignore the way the children on the show were treated. Whether their parents were yelling at them, coaching them from the sidelines, or putting ridiculously high expectations on them, it was seriously a bit much.
In fact, Psychology Today reported that many of the mothers on "Toddlers & Tiaras" exhibited varying forms of "Achievement by Proxy Distortion," or ABPD. According to Psychology Today, "ABPD occurs when the adult’s pride and satisfaction are achieved when supporting the child’s development and abilities." So, it’s basically when the parents become over-involved in the child’s success. That sometimes seemed to be the case when the moms on "Toddlers & Tiaras" got a little too excited when their children did well or mad when they didn’t. Notably, sometimes people with ABPD can’t "differentiate their needs and goals from the child’s."
Additionally, the Daily Beast went even further and likened the parenting portrayed on "Toddlers & Tiaras" to nothing short of child abuse.
Viewers thought the parents on Toddlers & Tiaras were too involved
It seemed that many "Toddlers & Tiaras" viewers had issues with the parents being too involved in the series. Mothers would stand to the side of the stage or behind the judges and dance their daughters’ routines right along with them. Sometimes they’d get extremely upset when their child didn’t place high enough. While that certainly didn’t appear healthy for the children, obviously, it also was annoying to watch for those at home.
Family therapist Terry Real told ABC News that the parents on "Toddlers & Tiaras" were a big problem, and viewers apparently agreed. "The parents are exploiting their own children for the sake of increasing the parent’s self-esteem. Shame on them," one person shared. "These parents need to stop living their lives through their children," another added.
But what made the show even harder to watch, which could have led to its cancelation, was that the parents didn’t see any problem being over-involved. "You get so into it you don’t even realize that you’re up doing it. It’s just … being a proud parent," one "Toddlers & Tiaras" mother Mickie Wood told ABC News. This lack of self-awareness from the show’s parents probably made for a frustrating reality TV watching experience, that’s for sure.
Toddlers & Tiaras caused real-life legal consequences
Obviously, people who watched "Toddlers & Tiaras" got pretty upset at seeing the way some of the parents dressed and treated their children on the reality show. And though viewers getting annoyed at parents on a television show is one thing, it becomes a much more serious issue when a spouse takes those issues to court. Yes, "Toddlers & Tiaras" caused real-life legal consequences for at least one mother on the show.
According to The Week, Lindsay Jackson, mother of Madiysyn "Mady" Verst and one of the most controversial moms on "Toddlers and Tiaras," was ordered by a judge to stop entering Mady in pageants while she was in a custody battle with Mady’s father. The father, Bill Verst, accused Jackson of exploiting Mady on the show, most notably when Jackson put fake breasts and a large behind on Mady to dress her in a Dolly Parton costume. Jackson herself apparently didn’t see the issue. "It’s not illegal," Jackson said, per The Week. "I shouldn’t be at risk of losing my child simply because she participates in a hobby that some people don’t like." Whatever Jackson thought, the judge disagreed and clearly saw that the pageants weren’t appropriate for the toddler.
With issues relating to filming coming up in court, this could have been one sign "Toddlers & Tiaras" was on its way out.
Toddlers & Tiaras was falling behind in viewership
As much controversy as a television show might have, a network often won’t just cancel it because of that, especially if it’s still bringing in a lot of viewers. So for "Toddlers & Tiaras," it seems that a combination of too much controversy and falling numbers might have contributed to the series being canceled. Towards the end of its first run from 2009 to 2013, "Toddlers & Tiaras" wasn’t doing so well.
In 2012, just a year before the series first came to an end, "Toddlers & Tiaras" had some pretty disappointing viewership numbers. According to the "Today" show, an episode of the series had only 1.6 million viewers with a 0.6 rating in the 19-49 age group during the 9 p.m. hour in 2012. That might not sound so bad on its own, but considering that a new episode of "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" pulled in almost 3 million viewers and its encore episode later that night pulled in 1.8 million, "Toddlers & Tiaras" appeared to be starting to fail towards the end, numbers wise. It’s unclear whether those low ratings were due to the drama surrounding the series or people just getting bored with it, but with such poor viewership so close to the end, it’s likely those numbers had something to do with the series being canceled.
No one would say why exactly Toddlers & Tiaras was canceled
Finally, after season upon season of viewers continuously being appalled at the behavior seen by parents on "Toddlers & Tiaras," the show was canceled in 2013. And while it would eventually be revived for a short time, this initial cancellation was certainly the most important. However, as an insider told Radar Online, there was no official reason as to why it was canceled. "After six series, the show has been officially taken out of production," the insider said. "Was it pressure from [detractors]? No-one is saying, at least, not yet. They aren’t using the word ‘cancelled,’ but I can tell you that the show is over."
Could all the controversies piling up have contributed to its cancellation? Besides all the inappropriate clothing seen on the show, viewers also took issue with the mothers giving their toddlers caffeine, and a lot of it. As HuffPost reported, one mother gave her daughter something she called "Tinker Tea." "Tinker Tea is soda, sweet-tea and [Pixy Stix] all together," the mother said. "It normally turns out a dark green color." And what soda does she put in the concoction? Mountain Dew.
Whether TLC realized it was time to stop glamorizing beauty pageants that give children such unhealthy and dangerous habits or the network simply thought the show’s time had come, "Toddlers & Tiaras" was ultimately canceled.